Welcome to flu season! As your coworkers cough and sniffle through work despite their misery, you are left to ponder the real question at stake: when are YOU going to get sick?
It’s time for you to bow out of flu season altogether. To that end, I humbly introduce to you the reishi mushroom, also known as the best anti-flu medicine you’ve never heard of.
What is Reishi Mushroom
Reishi mushrooms are tough, woody fungi whose medicinal use originates in ancient China.
You may have also heard them called Lingzhi, which is an older word that combines a Chinese term that means “miraculous,” “divine,” “spirit,” and “effectiveness” (ling) with a word that means both “fungus” and “this plant will make you live for a very long time” (zhe).
For you mycology nerds out there, the reishi mushrooms are actually several different but closely related species. No wonder they have so many names!
Names for Reishi Mushrooms:
- Lingzhe (Chinese name)
- Reishi (Japanese name)
- Ganoderma lucidum (That’s science-talk for “shiny!”)
- Miraculous seed
- Mysterious plant of longevity
- Sacred fungus
Traditional Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese medicinal traditions still use reishi mushrooms, continuing the tradition.
Records of what were probably reishi mushrooms exist as far back as 475 BC in Chinese classic literature. That’s well over 2,000 years of use!
What is Reishi Mushrooms Good For?
Ancients all over Asia ascribed miraculous life-extending qualities to reishi mushrooms, but let’s be honest: ancient people also thought drinking gold would cure the Bubonic plague. They weren’t always strong in the research department. What does modern science have to say?
Plenty! If you’ve already WebMD’ed reishi, then you know about its astonishing ability to boost your immune system.
Researchers at Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University even put together a literature review in 2005 that highlighted reishi’s antiviral properties.
Just to keep you up to date, the great and terrible flu happens to be nothing but a little virus! In addition to a diet high in vitamin C, reishi is a great way to stay healthy in a high-risk environment.
Other things reishi mushrooms do for your body:
- Ease your depression, anxiety, and possibly seizures
- Lower your blood pressure
- Boost your immune system
- Possibly fight breast and prostate cancer (Before you get excited, be aware that this use for reishi is still being studied, and reishi’s anti-cancer powers are a little more complicated than a cup of tea. We’ll talk more about that later in this article.)
- Combat your polycystic ovarian syndrome
What is Reishi Mushroom Used For?
Well, you can drink it in hot cocoa! Generally you don’t eat this mushroom as you would a portabella.
Reishi mushrooms are consumed as a health food supplement, often in tinctures or tea. It’s available as a powder, too, and in extract form.
For what it’s worth, reishi mushrooms are also very pretty and some amateur mycologists like to grow them for fun.
And, of course, scientists study reishi mushrooms in the hopes of unlocking their medicinal powers.
What is Reishi Powder Supplement?
Powdered reishi is just the raw mushroom dried out and all crushed up and packaged for your consumption and enjoyment.
In fact, getting the mushroom powdered can be useful if for no other reason than that the dried adult mushroom is too hard to crush up at home! (Seriously. You need a hammer. Maybe a jackhammer.)
You can add reishi powder to your food, to a smoothie, or anything else you’d care to mix it with, but most people prefer to drink it in tea.
What is Reishi Mushroom Tea Good For?
So we know that reishi is a great way to boost your immune system during flu season. Tea is the best way to take it.
There’s just one problem with that strategy: reishi is bitter! While some reishi fans claim to like the taste, it would be generous to call reishy’s flavor “earthy.”
Most people wouldn’t choose to drink it if they had other options. (That might be why reishi-infused hot chocolate made big news.
Of course, with that gourmet option, you’re also getting a hefty dose of sugar, which calls into question the whole point of the exercise.)
Unfortunately, if you want to get the benefits of reishi, you’ll just have to hold your nose and drink your tea. Honey, ginger, and juice can all cut the flavor a bit and make it bearable.
Like powdered reishi, reishi tea is broken down by a factory so that you don’t have to break a hammer trying to get it into pieces small enough for your cup.
Because this mushroom is so tough, it hangs onto its nutrients. Experts recommend simmering it for two hours!
All that time is worth it for the incredible health benefits. Reishi stands out among health supplements as one that works very well.
Is Reishi Mushroom Good for You?
Yes. Though the science isn’t completely sure how and to what extent reishi works yet, there’s solid evidence to suggest that reishi is good for your body.
That doesn’t mean that you should take mass quantities of it, though. Quite the opposite, in fact. After all, you wouldn’t take an entire bottle of Tylenol for a headache!
If you take reishi seriously as a medically active substance, it’s important to treat it with respect. That means talking to your doctor before starting a reishi regimen.
As with any alternative medical treatment, there’s a lot of good and bad information about reishi on the Internet.
It goes without saying that you can’t believe everything you read, but some of it just sounds so good! Does reishi slow the aging process? Well…probably not.
That’s a pretty significant claim for any health product to make, and a good rule of thumb is that if any medical treatment sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Does reishi cure cancer?
No. It might treat cancer if taken correctly and in concert with other therapies, but as far as we know, nothing cures cancer on its own.
But does reishi make you a little healthier, contributing to a longer and happier life? Does reishi show promise against tumors and heart disease? Can it help with your anxiety? Yes to all!
Reishi does have some side effects. Since this mushroom boosts your immune system’s natural power, it’s a bad idea to take it if you have an autoimmune problem.
Autoimmune issues cause your body’s natural defense system to attack you instead of the germs that invade you. Reishi would just make that attack stronger – and way worse for your body!
Also, ask your doctor about reishi if you take medications that slow blood clotting, like aspirin and ibuprofen. Reishi does the same thing and it can magnify the effects of your other prescriptions.
Avoid taking it if you’re on blood pressure medication, too.
Low blood pressure is good, but you know what they say about having too much of a good thing.
How long does it take for reishi mushroom to work?
Any medication or supplement requires a certain amount of time to settle into your system.
It’ll be a while before you notice any effects. Give reishi ten days to two weeks to start working. During that time, try drinking one cup in the morning to see how your body will react.
Don’t increase your dose if you don’t see effects immediately! Good things are worth the wait.
Where does the reishi mushroom grow?
Reishi grows all over the world in all of its many varieties. There are even Reishi varieties growing wild in Maine!
They particularly like hemlock logs and stand out as pretty, bright red, shelf-like mushrooms growing right out of the trunk.
But, if you don’t feel like trekking to moose country to seek the wild reishi in the forest, you can also grow it yourself at home.
Places in the world reishi mushrooms have been found:
- Growing on hardwoods, like oaks in warm climates around the world
- The northeastern United States between May and July
- On maple trees all along the East Coast
- Growing on pine trees in the Pacific Northwest
- Pretty much everywhere!
Reishi Mushroom Health Benefits
- Immune system boost
- Possible anti-tumor properties, especially for breast and prostate cancer
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Treats depression
- Combats seizures
- May counter the effects of polycystic ovarian syndrome
- If you drink it in tea, it’ll help prevent dehydration. Hey, it counts!
That’s quite a powerful little fungus! Who wouldn’t want to down a couple cups of anti-flu tea in a busy, sneezy office?
Reishi Mushroom Dosage
While that change may be positive, too much could definitely throw your system out of whack.
We talked before about reishi lowering your blood pressure too much if you’re already taking medication, and since it can make you sleepy, an extra-large dose of reishi tea probably isn’t the best idea if you’re about to operate heavy machinery.
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: your doctor will have the best advice for you if you plan to make reishi a part of your diet.
Doses of any medicine will vary with your weight, age, and health requirements. However, according to Examine.com, standard doses for reishi also vary according to what kind of extract you’re taking.
This gets a little technical. (Again, your doctor is a great resource!) If you’re taking in the standard extract of reishi, 5.2 grams per day, or about 0.18 ounces, is as much as you should take. As you can imagine, it’s easy to get such a tiny amount into your diet!
But you might also balk at measuring out ounces and tenths of ounces, which makes sense.
That’s no fun. When you start reishi, just try drinking a cup of tea once a day and see how you react to it.
Reishi Mushroom Cancer
Here’s the part you’ve been waiting for: the part where I tell you about reishi and cancer. For the past thirty years, studies have been examining a ton of excellent evidence for reishi’s possible anti-tumor properties.
Obviously, scientists get very excited about anything that shows promise against cancer.
The fact that researchers have stuck with reishi for this long indicates that they’re cautiously thrilled about what this mushroom can do.
At very least, researchers think they may soon be able to isolate some of reishi’s chemical compounds and turn them into a better treatment for tumors.
At least one literature review has ventured that even traditional reishi treatment might be somewhat helpful for lung cancer patients. However, remember that more isn’t necessarily better, even against cancer. Large doses of reishi may also be toxic to anti-cancer immune cells.
Now, when the big C comes up, I feel compelled to add a disclaimer.
Reishi might help if you have cancer, and doctors really are excited about its potential for future anti-cancer drugs.
But reishi alone is not a cure. If it were, Chinese doctors would have cured cancer in 475 BC. How I wish that were the case!
In reality, the best outcomes for cancer still come from mainstream medicine. Think of reishi as a supplemental treatment, something that might help if it can work with chemotherapy and radiation.
Beating cancer means listening to your doctor first. No mushroom is worth the advice you can get from a professional.
Reishi Mushroom Tea
That said, reishi has an impressive resume. Let’s say you’ve spoken to your doctor and you have a plan for starting your reishi journey.
You’re excited to try your first cup of bitter, earthy-tasting tea. (How bad could it be, right?) Get ready for those health benefits to pour in!
Try these recipes when it comes time to down your first cup of mushroomy goodness.
- The New York Times recommends chopping reishi mushrooms at home, which we know is a challenge! If you’re up for it, this recipe is a great starter.
- Lost Empire Herbs suggests using reishi powder for an easier tea-making process. No fun, right?
- net points out that the fresh mushrooms make a far more pleasant-tasting tea than the dried ones. Another pint in favor of growing your own!
Reishi Mushroom Extract
Extracts of reishi mushrooms can be more concentrated than the powdered raw mushroom. I mentioned Examine.com before.
I’ve found this site’s explanation of how much reishi extract to take to be extremely useful.
Remember, too much of anything is no good! Make sure you know how much reishi you’re taking.
Red Reishi Mushroom
Lots of reishi varieties are reddish in color, but some people ascribe special health benefits to the variety known as red reishi.
This kind of reishi is particularly nice to look at, but it’s got brains as well as beauty!
In fact, red reishi has been shown to be particularly high in a certain kind of anti-androgen chemical.
Since androgens, or male hormones, can be caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome, red reishi could help women struggling with this common, difficult condition.
It’s easy to find lots of claims about herbal medicine on the Internet, but it’s a rare day when so many of them turn out to be true!
Reishi has a ton of potential as a drug, a supplement to cancer treatment, and a get-out-of-the-flu-free card.
I guess those ancients were on to something after all! I, for one, look forward to skipping my annual bout with sickness in favor of a cup of hot, bitter-tasting miracle mushroom.
What are your thoughts on this mushroom? Comment below…